Although there are many characteristics I love about our puppy, Steve is not the best walker. He pulls and whines. I find he does better walking in the dark — maybe because he can’t see as far ahead? Some walks are better than others, but many times I find myself frustrated and annoyed and so.over.it that I fight back tears. At the same time, he’s a puppy and he needs exercise, so I push through those walks, hoping things will change. But, they don’t.
Denali didn’t start out as a great walker either, but at 10-pushing-11-years-old, she’s figured some things out, and she’s also okay slowing down. Even on her worst walking days, her 50-pound body is one I can handle. Steve, on the other hand, at just 8 months old is pushing 60 pounds… his paws and extra skin suggest that there’s more weight to come. Although I like to think of myself as strong, walking with 110 pounds attached to leashes isn’t the easiest task for me — especially when one is pulling quite hard.
So, we decided it’s time to make some changes. I will walk Denali. Brad will walk Steve. I will go on calm, quick-paced walks around the neighborhood with a dog who can walk loose leash. Brad will go on painfully slow walks down the street with a dog who doesn’t know what loose leash even means. I will come home rejuvenated with a dog who will probably nap for a few hours. Brad will come home a winner, because he will not let that dog beat him. That’s why Brad is walking Steve — he’s the most stubborn, competitive being in our house (Brad, not Steve).
Yesterday we put the plan into motion. I took Denali on a guilt-free walk around the neighborhood because Steve was out at the farm living in best life. While Denali lifted her paw so that I could get that loose leash out from under her leg (ohmygoshIlovehersomuch!), Steve was running full speed ahead around the pond and through trees and fields. I was fully on board with this new plan…until today.
Denali could tell I was putting on different clothes which meant a walk was possible. Steve saw me put on shoes and his tail started wagging. When I put on my coat and hat, the nudged the leashes indicating his needs and was wagging his tail so hard that his body was practically folding in half back and forth, back and forth. I picked up one leash and put it on one dog. I told Steve to sit and wait as I walked Denali out the door. I turned around and saw him sitting in the window and my heart broke (I’m not crying, you’re crying!).
How do I tell a puppy…
This is for your own good. I promise you’ll get your own walk later.
Once you learn how to walk, you’ll be happier on the leash.
If you can master this, you’ll be able to run with me and I promise you’ll love it!
Trust me, this won’t last forever.
I can’t. I can’t tell him any of those things. He stayed there by the window waiting for us… he waited for over 20 minutes for us to come back. That’s a long time for a puppy. When Denali and I walked in, my heart broke all over again. But, I know, this is for the best.
For most of my career, I knew my trajectory. I was a youth minister at one church for five years and another for nine. I knew my role and what I did well. I knew I’d continue being a youth minister…until I knew I wouldn’t. Losing that identity has thrown me a bit. When I told people “I’m a youth minister” they generally knew what that meant. Of course, they also made assumptions about me, but it’s not that hard for people to understand the title or role. When I tell people now that “I’m a program manager” they wait for more. They don’t know what that means, they don’t understand the name of the organization and they don’t know what I do. Program manager is not a defining identity, not like youth minister.
When I took this new job about 18 months ago, I think all of us involved — my soon-to-be bosses, my husband, my family, myself — knew this wasn’t my final landing place. At first I was okay with that, but then I kept thinking, “So if this isn’t it, what is? What’s the next thing?” Instead of settling in, I was/am on edge a bit waiting to find out what’s next. This fall I came to understand my current employment as a time of transition. I have no idea what that means time wise — it could mean a year or ten, I honestly I have no idea.
But I do know some things. I truly enjoy spending time with, learning from and working alongside my co-workers — those within my unit and in the larger institution. I am grateful for incredible benefits for Brad and I. The paid time off and retirement plan are great perks too. In addition to all of that, I am building skills I already had and learning new ones. My bosses encourage me to pursue my own interests and find ways to incorporate them into my work. I get to try on new roles that are outside of my job description and allow me to grow. I really can’t complain about the work in front of me.
I’m trying to settle into this time of transition. I’m trying to be okay with this open space. And yet… this can’t be it? Right? There has to be more. There must be more. I realize I’m still wandering through the wilderness… it may be a bit brighter, but there are no clear paths and the bramble is still quite thick.
When I left Steve, he was staring out the window wishing he was on that walk too. I doubt he took on all the thoughts and emotions that I had imagined he thought and felt. But still, he didn’t like seeing us walk away without him.
Perhaps I’m the one sitting on the other side of the glass right now. Maybe I’m the one watching people walk away, achieving goals, living out dreams, while I sit on the bench inside.
I began to imagine Universe outside on the deck getting ready to go for a walk, while I sat inside watching Her leave. I imagined Her saying, “Anne, this is the best thing for you right now. I promise you’ll get your chance soon. If you can wait a little while longer, you’ll love what comes next. Trust me, this time of waiting won’t last forever.” I imagined tears running down my face as She turned away, knowing She’s right. And, as She looked back at me one last time, I saw a tear fall down Her cheek too, because she knows it’s so hard to be human.
I know exactly what she means, because I said it all to Steve as I walked away.